Here’s a short video of protests this week in Karnataka over Cauvery water.
So, what’s going on?
The dispute relates to sharing of Cauvery river water among four southern states – Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry. The river originates in Karnataka, and the state can regulate water flows to downstream states like Tamil Nadu.
The dispute has been there for more than a century. In 2007, the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal gave its final verdict determining how the water will be shared. This came 16 years after the tribunal was established and 570 days of sitting.
What did the order say?
The tribunal estimated quantum of water available for sharing as 740 thousand million cubic feet or TMC. (If you’re stumped by what these units are, don’t worry. We have a small note on what they mean). Then it determined how this water will be shared among the four states:
Tamil Nadu – 419 TMC
Karnataka – 270 TMC
Kerala – 30 TMC
Pondicherry – 7 TMC
Further it gave a month-wise release of water from Karnataka to Tamil Nadu, the two major states in the dispute.
If the order has clearly detailed how to share water, where is the problem?
The final order only defined ‘normal year’ when the total available water in the cauvery basin is 740 TMC. But there was no such estimate when the water availability falls due to poor monsoon. The verdict only states, “….in a distress year, the allocated shares shall be proportionately reduced among the states….”
Karnataka now claims it has very low level of water in the reservoir because of poor rains, and refused to release water.
Now Supreme Court asked Karnataka to release 15,000 cusecs of water for 10 days. How much is that?
Cusec is the short form for cubic foot per second or the flow of water per second. One cusec is 28.317 litres of water. TMC is thousand million cubic feet.
If 11,000 cusecs of water is released for a day, then the total quantum of water is 1 TMC. So for 15,000 cusec, it is equivalent to 1.36 TMC.
If 15,000 cusecs of water is released for next 10 days, the total quantum is 13.63 TMC of water. That’s equivalent to filling 1.55 lakh olympic size swimming pools.
In comparison, Tamil Nadu is entitled to 40 TMC of water in September as per final order of the tribunal.